U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos said in a statement Wednesday that she is urging Congress to change the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act to ensure that elite, wealthy schools are not eligible for the taxpayer funding.
Congress required by law that taxpayer Emergency Relief funds be given to all colleges and universities, no matter their wealth. But as I’ve said all along, wealthy institutions that do not primarily serve low-income students do not need or deserve additional taxpayer funds. This is common sense. Schools with large endowments should not apply for funds so more can be given to students who need support the most. It’s also important for Congress to change the law to make sure no more taxpayer funds go to elite, wealthy institutions.
Earlier Wednesday DeVos tweeted praise for Stanford University for its decision to withdraw its application for funds from the Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund (HEERF), which was created by the CARES Act:
Kudos to @Stanford for withdrawing its application for #CARESAct funds. As I’ve said since day 1, wealthy institutions like @Harvard don't need this money. They should follow Stanford's lead & embrace the @ShakeShack principle – leave the $$ for those with the greatest need!
— Secretary Betsy DeVos (@BetsyDeVosED) April 22, 2020
“Kudos to @Stanford for withdrawing its application for #CARESAct funds,” the secretary tweeted. “As I’ve said since day 1, wealthy institutions like @Harvard don’t need this money. They should follow Stanford’s lead & embrace the @ShakeShack principle – leave the $$ for those with the greatest need!”
Since half of these funds were to be directly applied to grants for students, we want to reassure our students that we remain fully committed to the financial aid that has been promised to them. (6/6)
— Stanford University (@Stanford) April 22, 2020
DeVos referred to the fact that the Shake Shack corporation, which, as the New York Times reported, has 189 outlets and about 8,000 employees, said it would be returning $10 million in bailout funding it received through the Small Business Administration’s Paycheck Protection Program (PPP).
In a letter dated April 9 to college and university presidents, DeVos instructed the school officials the CARES Act provided “several different methods for distributing roughly $14 billion in funds to institutions of higher education.”
About $12.6 billion of the funds was slated for distribution according to a formula based on student enrollment.
The secretary wrote:
Of the amount allocated to each institution under this formula, at least 50 percent must be reserved to provide students with emergency financial aid grants to help cover expenses related to the disruption of campus operations due to coronavirus. We are prioritizing this funding stream in order to get money in the hands of students in need as quickly as possible.
If you determine that your institution’s students do not have significant financial need at this time, I would ask that you consider giving your allocation to those institutions within your state or region that might have significant need.
As Breitbart News reported Monday, Ivy League schools are receiving millions of dollars in the federal aid even while they hold large endowments:
Harvard University will receive $8.6 million in federal bailout funds despite its endowment of nearly $41 billion. Yale University, which boasts an endowment of $30.3 billion, will receive $6.8 million in bailout funds. Princeton University, which has an endowment of $26.1 billion, will receive $2.4 million in bailout funds. Cornell and Columbia will receive the largest bailouts at $12.8 million each.
On Tuesday, President Donald Trump vowed Harvard would be expected to repay its coronavirus aid.
“Harvard’s going to pay back the money and they shouldn’t be taking it,” Trump said during the daily White House coronavirus press briefing.
Of course they should give it back. Harvard has the largest university endowment in the world, $41 Bn. They shouldn’t have taken taxpayer “relief” in the first place. https://t.co/iPkLPRA4Un
— Ted Cruz (@tedcruz) April 22, 2020
The current controversy arrives just two months after the education department announced it was launching an investigation into Harvard and Yale Universities after it appeared both Ivy League schools had “potentially failed to report hundreds of millions of dollars in foreign gifts and contracts,” a department press release said.
The education department expressed particular concern that Harvard “may lack appropriate institutional controls over foreign money and has failed to report fully all foreign gifts and contracts as required by law.”
The investigation was advanced as Dr. Charles Lieber, chair of Harvard’s Chemistry and Chemical Biology Department, had been “indicted for lying about his involvement with the Chinese government’s Thousand Talents Plan.”
“If colleges and universities are accepting foreign money and gifts, their students, donors, and taxpayers deserve to know how much and from whom,” DeVos said in a statement.
“Unfortunately, the more we dig, the more we find that too many are underreporting or not reporting at all,” she added. “We will continue to hold colleges and universities accountable and work with them to ensure their reporting is full, accurate, and transparent, as required by the law.”